Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Journey Begins

Flying from the Sacramento area on the West Coast to any European destination involves multiple flights with at least one connection somewhere.  It also involves a lot of time....at a minimum - 12 hours.

For me, I slept pretty well Friday night, but was awake at my usual time of about 5:00 AM Saturday morning.  Packed and ready to go, Sam and I were out the door at 8:30 and off to the airport.  Sam was flying down to L.A. for her 10th year high school reunion, and I headed north to Seattle, where I would meet up with Adrienne.  Arrived Seattle shortly after 1 PM, then we had a really nice and fun lunch with Mikey at the airport.  Our next leg, a flight on Icelandair, was leaving at 4:30, so we enjoyed a leisurely meal of sandwiches and soup at one of the airport restaurants just outside of the security area, so Mikey could enjoy some time visiting before we left.

With all of the preparation for the trip that he made on Adrienne's behalf, you'd think he was going on the cruise too.  It would have been super for him to join us, but alas, he seems to be of the opinion that the ship would experience quite a bit of "motion" out there in the open seas, and that doesn't seem to be his cup of tea.  It's actually quite calm, but I think I have an uphill battle trying to convince him otherwise.  Maybe one day......

Our flight to Copenhagen via Reyjkavik, Iceland, was just about 7 hours, and was smooth and uneventful.  We had an hour layover there, then boarded a second flight for Copenhagen.  That one was 3 hours, and we landed on time and without incident.  Customs and luggage and all that later, we found the train to the City Center, bought our tickets (a whopping $4.30 per person) and hopped on the train.  Another 10 minute walk to our hotel, and we were checked in and in our room by 2:00 PM.

From past experience we knew we'd be reaching that point within a couple of hours where we'd just "hit the wall", so we hurried out to find a little cafe or someplace to have an early dinner, and then walked back to the hotel.  By 5 PM, Adrienne was out cold, and I was having a very difficult time trying to keep my eyes open.  A few hours later, I woke up to see the sun beginning to set.  I watched it for a little while, and then tried to go back to sleep.  Adrienne also woke up for a brief period, then went back to sleep.  I faded again around 9:00 and slept through till about 2:30.  Sigh.  Jet lag is not the greatest thing.  I stayed awake then, and waited for Adrienne to wake up.

Our hotel room is lovely.  It is quite large by European standards, is on the 12th floor of the hotel, and looks out over a gorgeous lake and the western part of Copenhagen.  The beds are super comfy and we have everything we need.  Our rate also comes with breakfast in the mornings, so Monday we went down about 7:00 AM to find a fantastic buffet of foods - hot eggs, bacon, potatoes, baked beans,  deli meats and cheeses, fruits, tomatoes, cucumbers, cereals, nuts and seeds, yogurts, juices, milk, coffees, teas, toast, danish pastries.  OMG.  Where to start first??? Hahahahaaha.  Everything was delicious and we enjoyed some relative quiet that early hour of the morning.

After breakfast, I had made plans for 2 tours for us.  The first one was a guided walking tour of the older part of Copenhagen called the City Center.  Our guide was none other than Hans Christian Anderson himself.  Hans had come to Copenhagen as a 14-year old to try to make it as an actor and singer in the theater.  He failed miserably.  He then tried his hand as a ballet dancer.  Again, failed miserably.  Finally, undaunted, he began writing to the theatre and found a modicum of success.
He then went on to write a number of fairy tales, meant for adults to read to children, and based on life lessons.  Bingo!  He hit pay dirt.  We all know of his fairy tales - the Ugly Duckling, The Emperor's New Clothes, The Little Mermaid, The Princess and the Pea, etc.  He lived out his life in Copenhagen, never married and died at the age of 70.

We enjoyed our introduction to the main areas of the City Center - the City Hall, where we learned a little bit about the Danish government and constitution, some of the architecture and how the city used to be surrounded by a large wall with an actual moat around it's outside, churches, and the courthouse.  Hans was extremely entertaining and had us all laughing a good part of the 90 minute tour.

After that, Adrienne and I walked about 10 blocks down towards the canal area, called Nyhavn.  We hopped on board a canal boat for a one hour tour.  The open-air boat took us out towards the harbor, passing the Royal Yacht, the new Opera House, and the Danish Navy base.  We meandered in and out of some smaller connecting canals, and passed under several very low bridges, where only the shortest in the boat did not need to duck down.  (cough cough....Adrienne)

The canal tour over, we walked back up towards the City Center, along the Stroget, a pedestrian-only boulevard filled with shops of all kinds - high end retailers down to kiosks selling ice cream and touristy gift shops.  We were pretty hungry for lunch by this time, as it was pushing 3 PM, so we found a nice cafe across from an open square and went in for our meal.

It was nice to sit and relax, and do some people watching.  Copenhagen's population is about 500,000 inside the main city area, and there are many young people there, since the University is located in this same area.  Most Danes who live in or near the city center and work or go to school there, ride bikes.  The streets are set up quite nicely to cater to the bikers, with very wide bike lanes (about twice as wide as we have at home) and smaller, cobble pedestrian sidewalks.  The bike is the cheapest and most convenient way to get around, as the tax rate on automobiles is 300%.  Yep.  I'd buy a bike too.  The government really wants to discourage autos, so catering to bikers is the way to go.  They have a wonderful train, metro and bus system, and your bike is allowed on all of those.  There are dozens upon dozens of places to park/lock your bike, and it is all free.  There are even city bikes that you can rent by the hour - $5 an hour.  You can pick up a bike pretty much anywhere other bikes are parked, and the city bikes even have little engines in them if you get tired of pedaling.  They have little machine card readers on the front for you to swipe your credit card.  Easy peasy.  When you're done riding, you just park it and leave it wherever it is you are.

For the evening, I had planned for us to spend some time at Tivoli Gardens.  Tivoli opened in 1843 and was designed to be a combination of an amusement park and a flower garden.  More than 4 million people visit Tivoli each year.  It is the second oldest amusement park in the world.  It consists of 21 acres of gardens and flowers, and at latest count, about 25 rides.  There's a couple of really fun roller coasters, including one that is very similar to Disneyland's beloved Matterhorn, called the Mountain Coaster, built in 1914 and is one of the oldest remaining wooden roller coasters today.  Walt Disney and his friend Art Linkletter visited Tivoli in 1951 and it became of one 5 parts that inspired Walt Disney to create Disneyland, which opened in 1955.  The twinkling lights of Disneyland's Main Street are an homage to Tivoli Gardens, as there are a number of buildings and gardens that are beautifully lit at night here in Copenhagen's Tivoli.

Adrienne and I rode a number of rides, most together, but she was OH NO I WON'T BE RIDING THAT when it came to the Demon, a wild zero gravity upside down looping roller coaster.  I went on it twice and loved it.  I did get her on another roller coaster-y type ride called Monsun.  It dangled you over the ground while it swung back and forth, simulating a roller coaster but not going up or down very high.  Here's how it is described:

Feel the wind in your hair and the rush in your stomach.

You will be literally blown off your feet when the Monsoon lifts you up in its mighty arms and sends you 12 metres up in the air, first one way and then the other - while you breathlessly laugh with your friends opposite you
Okay, well, I wouldn't say Adrienne was laughing.  In fact, she was screaming and howling the entire time.  Big baby.  (jk)  But hey, I am VERY PROUD of her for going on the ride.  She stepped outside her comfort zone and pushed her envelope.  Will she go on it again?  NOT IN A MILLION YEARS, THANK YOU VERY MUCH!!!

We spent over 5 hours at Tivoli, and enjoyed seeing it get dark, and all of the beautiful lights come on throughout the park.

We returned to our hotel a little after 10:30 and were happily exhausted. It was another great day in Copenhagen.

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